• From the most basic paneling to built-up carpentry, any style can be emulated by stacking stock moldings. In this video, This Old House senior technical editor Mark Powers shows how to order the layering to create an Eastlake-style wainscoting. Keep in mind that for every piece that projects away from the surface, you'll need to create returns on either side to tie the piece back to the layer beneath it.

    Note: The background plywood on which this demonstration is built represents the wall from floor to chair-rail height. When you build your paneling, the molding should be applied directly to the wall (no plywood base needed).


    1. Build out the wall so the top rail will appear in relief. Install 1-inch-thick blocking strips along the top of the paneling area, then add a second layer of blocking in the center of your pattern.
    2. Begin by installing a center strip of tambour panel—an inexpensive alternative to reed paneling—oriented vertically.
    3. Bookend the center tambour paneling with two pilasters made from 1x4 lumber.
    4. Fill the field surrounding these projections with tambour paneling set on the diagonal.
    5. Place horizontal 1x4 strips above the paneling and single blocking, on either side of the center double blocking.
    6. Use fluted casing, turned horizontally, to fill in between the 1x4s and the top blocking (this should continue out to the edges of your pattern, not shown here), as well as above the center double blocking.
    7. Fill the center projection below the fluted casing and above the tambour with a strip of 1x4.
    8. Trim the top and bottom of the 1x4s with cove molding.
    9. Trim the top of the fluted casing, on top of the blocking, with nose-and-cove chair rail.
    10. Cut 2-inch lattice strips into squares and sand the edges. Space these blocks evenly across the horizontal 1x4s.
    11. Cut large base cap down to small blocks to create modillions. Install the modillions at the top of the vertical pilasters.
    12. Install a strip of doorstop between the vertical pilasters 1 inch up from the bottom.
    13. Make two plinth blocks from a 1x6 and install them at the base of the pilasters, projecting them beyond the sides of the pilasters.
    14. Cap the plinth blocks with base-cap molding.
    15. Finish the base with another layer of doorstop topped with shoe molding.
    • Difficulty: Hard
      Difficult. Mitered cuts, returns, and blocking require precision math and good carpentry skills.
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      Video Directory

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      Tools List

      • combination square
        combination square
      • framing square
        framing square
      • miter saw
        miter saw
      • four-foot level
        4-foot level
      • hot glue gun
        hot glue gun
      • pneumatic brad nailer
        pneumatic brad nailer (rents for $55 per day with compressor)
      • hand clamps
        spring clamps
      • putty knife
        small putty knife

      Shopping List

      1. Furring strips for blocking

      2. Tambour paneling to imitate reed paneling

      3. 1x4 for the two pilasters and the top rail

      4. Fluted casing

      5. Cove molding to trim the top and bottom of the top rail

      6. Nose-and-cove chair rail

      7. Lattice strips for applique blocks

      8. Large base cap to make small modillions for the top of the plinth blocks

      9. Doorstop 10. 1x6 for plinth blocks

      11. Small base cap to cap the plinth blocks

      12. Shoe molding

      13. 2-inch brad nails

      14. wood glue for assembling returns

      15. 220-grit sandpaper for smoothing the mitered corners and filled nail holes

      16. hot glue cartridge to tack pieces in place as you nail them

      17. wood putty to fill nail holes